They say that knowledge is power and time is money. Nice words, but unless you have the wherewithal to do something with them, you’re really not worth the price of your own skin.
Never to be outdone by his neighbor, the Elderworlder is the epitome of the Renaissance Man. Their great versatility and technological savvy have made them the technological masters of the Terran Expansion. They are the forerunners of scientific progress, economically gifted and academically diverse. Seldom does one find a poverty-stricken Elderworlder; however, in their zealous commitment to progress they are often shortsighted and stubborn.
Elderworlders have long enjoyed a nearly symbiotic relationship with their machines. Though not as invasively augmented as their close cousins, the Operators, Elderworlder biology is suffused with nanotech enhancements. Most of their abilities derived from this close kinship with their technology — as ubiquitous in their lives as bacteria have been in the lives of humans since time immemorial. Elderworlders are born with their augmentations — these self-reproducing, self-regenerating technologies are as much a component of their biology as any “natural” organ. They are passed down the generations matrilineally, from mother to child, adapting as needed to changing environmental conditions in the interests of preserving the aggregate organism that is both man and machine.
One of the most dramatic Elderworlder characteristics is the highly advanced nanotech “halo” that surrounds their bodies. When dormant, the components of the halo cling to their bodies like a second skin. Many Elderworlders wear this halo as their only clothing, customizing its appearance from its natural skin-tight, matte black pattern to any number of intricate configurations. The halo is self-cleaning, self-maintaining and self-healing, like a living extension of the Elderworlder’s body. It can be easily removed, like clothing, but few Elderworlders find need to do this. When “unworn,” the halo can be put to any number of other uses. It can encircle its wearer’s body within a uniform radius of one meter, or can extend in one direction as far as 5 meters (with very sparse coverage everywhere else).
The halo itself is composed of billions of mite-sized robots, the bulk of which are specialized to perform the task of moving the halo around, maintaining its shape and keeping it bound together. Interspersed throughout the halo are specialized processor nodes. These are responsible for coordinating the actions of the halo as a whole, and for interfacing it with its user via noninvasive neurological links. Used feedback from the halo is usually tactile or audio — an Elderworlder can both feel and hear through his halo as though he were hearing or touching the source of those signals himself.
Halo mites themselves are virtually transparent, capable of changing color, and generally do an excellent job of staying inconspicuous when in an environment rich enough in energy to maintain their active camoflaging ability. An Elderworlder’s halo can become almost completely invisible, looking like a sparse white mist enshrouding its user. Alternatively, it can be completely opaque, appearing like a thick, black fog. Since it can selectively transmit light through itself, it can either conceal its user completely, like a Phantom’s active camoflage, or it can simply make it appear as though he is standing there by himself, ostensibly unadorned.
The halo generally powers itself by such sources as sunlight, its wearer’s body heat, energy extracted from its user’s motion and chemical fuels extracted from the environment. It can draw energy directly from its wearer’s metabolism, increasing the caloric requirements of its user but offering significant benefits from the exchange. When powered by an external source, the halo becomes much more than a passive extension of the user’s body — it becomes an augmenting device, capable of performing far more significantly than it can in its passive, unpowered mode.
Elderworlders are fairly unique in the ease at which they adapt to using such complex technology. It is extraordinarily difficult for non-Elderworlders to learn to use an Elderworld halo as easily and effectively as they do, having learned from birth to think of the halo and use it as an extension of their bodies. While others can learn, it takes a specialty skill of at least 30 to use a halo to the full extent of its abilities — something Elderworlders can do by second-nature.
An Elderworlder’s halo is responsible for the manifestation of a number of his more characteristic abilities. These are discussed individually below.
Effective Telekinesis (?)
By using his halo in a nearly invisible state, an Elderworlder can spoof telekinesis by manipulating objects at a distance. Using in this way, an unpowered halo has an effective strength, agility and dexterity of 10, 10 and 5, respectively. A halo using an external power supply can operate with a much higher effective strength and agility of 20, but its dexterity remains unchanged. Objects can be manipulated within a maximum radius of 5 meters, limited in number by the number of “feelers” the halo can extend over that distance. At the full five meters, only one “feeler” can be extended. At half this distance, two can extend. At a third, three can operate, and so on, until the objects to be manipulated lie so close to the Elderworlder’s body that they can all be manipulated without the halo extending itself any further than its natural encircling radius (see above). Any number of objects can be carried within the halo provided their total weight does not exceed the ability of the halo’s effective strength to carry them, and that their total volume does not exceed that of the halo itself.
The appearance of this feat can be tailored to the preference of its user. Most Elderworlders simply use the halo in its natural, mist-like state. Some elect to make a more dramatic show of their action-at-a-distance, mimicking tentacles, barbed whips, chains or even elastic caricatures of human arms. Truly unusual appearances can require additional power to produce convincingly — an underpowered halo will try to match its users expectations, but often end up looking incoporeal, poorly detailed or “fuzzed out.”
An Elderworlder can use his halo to lift himself up and “levitate” over a solid surface. There are some important limitations to this ability. First, an Elderworlder cannot really levitate using his halo. The halo simply lifts him onto its own bulk, which is itself resting on the ground. The user of a halo can only lift himself as far off the ground with it as its effective strength can lift him, and, at any rate, he can never lift himself more than 5 meters high. (At this point, his levitation becomes very unweildy — he is essentially balancing on a single “stilt” of halo material, and cannot move very quickly.) Motion along the ground is possible at speeds of up to 10 for an unpowered halo and 20 for an externally powered halo, provided the halo is not levitating its user higher than its natural encircling radius. If it is, speed diminishes linearly as it approaches its 5 meter limit, so that at 2.5 meters high, the speed of the halo is 1/2 of what it would be at baseline height.
An Elderworlder cannot
use his halo to float on water. The halo is too porous, and will easily allow liquid to pass through its volume. Denser versions of nanotech “utility fogs” exist that would permit object using them to float on water, but this isn’t one of those. Once in the water, though, a halo can make a useful propeller, augmenting the user’s natural swimming speed by 5 points unpowered, or 10 points powered.
Combat Augmentations (?)
An Elderworlder can use his halo to deflect blows and even deliver some of his own, using its effective strength and agility attributes. Coupled with his own limbs, an Elderworlder can deliver blows and execute maneuvers with his own physical attributes plus those of the halo. This only works when the Elderworlder’s actions directly make use of a combination of his own body and the halo to accomplish their goals. If only the halo or the Elderworlder’s fist contacts his opponent, for instance, only the individual strength of either is used. Both most connect in coordinated concert for the augmented strength to apply.
A powered halo offers protection to its user equivalent to a full-coverage suit of armor with a body-wide armor value of 2. An unpowered halo offers little more protection than flimsy clothing — most attacks pass through it easily, so it offers no armor protection.
A halo can discharge a static electric shock sufficient to incapacitate an unaugmented adult human. See the rules for electric stun weaponry for details on this. The effective strength of a halo discharge is 20.
Halo Limitations (?)
- A halo does not provide a sealed, regulated environment within itself. Air and water pass through it easily, and it will not retain pressure in a vacuum.
- A halo does not insulate its wearer against extremes of heat or cold any more than a light set of clothing. In fact, as its members are superconducting, in extreme environments it can actually work against its wearer by conducting heat away or toward him rapidly. A cold halo can be warmed temporarily by “shivering” or “knotting” to hold in heat, but this requires an expenditure of power.
- A normal, unpowered halo can only operate for a matter of a few hours at maximum capacity before it has exhausted its energy supplies, and must sit idle for a time to recharge. Recharging rates depend on the available sources of energy in the environment. Under average comfort conditions, a halo requires about 24 hours to fully recharge. External chargers can be employed to recharge a halo faster.
- A powered halo can operate at full capacity for as long as its power source holds out. Depending on the source, this can range from a few hours, a few days or even years. Some power supplies can even be replenished in the field, extending their useful life virtually indefinitely.
The Elderworlder clade is perhaps the oldest clade in the Expansion, tracing its origins back to the very beginnings of humanity’s conquest of interstellar space. There can be no doubt that the Elderworlders originated on Earth. Since they are such a multifaceted clade, spanning many, if not all of the archaic races, it is unlikely that they originated in any single region on the Terran homeworld. For the most part, the modern Elderworlder clade is differentiated from others by its psychological and technological characteristics, rather than by any genetic baselines.
The majority of Elderworlders live within the Elderworlds Alliance, wherein they represent the dominant clade by a more-than-comfortable margin. Those who venture outside Alliance territories are usually outcasts seeking escape, entrepreneurs seeking opportunities or wanderers, drawn to their pilgrimage by what the Meridian Society terms “the Wanderlust.” These latter individuals make up a good majority of the Elderworlder population outside of the Alliance borders.
Elderworlders tend to come in two distinct varieties — those who have been touched by the Wanderlust and those who have not. Those in the latter category tend to stick close to home, while those in the former prefer to be anywhere but. Elderworlders on the whole tend to be more independent than communal. It’s unknown whether this is a genetically rooted trait or whether is stems from the social influence of the Meridian Society working to keep Elderworlder populations highly mobile and self-sufficient.